MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — With lawmakers gathered on Mackinac Island for the annual Detroit Regional Chamber Mackinac Policy Conference, negotiations about the state budget are still in full swing ahead of a deadline at the end of the month.
Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks, D-Grand Rapids, said the conversations between her, the Democratic speaker of the House, the governor and minority Republican leaders have been “productive.”
“We’ve been engaging with Republicans in the Senate for weeks now and as we talk with our counterparts in the House, as well as the executive office of the governor, we are really making good progress. I think that we’ll have a good product and I think we’ll have it by the end of June,” she said.
Rep. Matt Hall of Richland, who leads Republicans in the House, was much less certain about the budget getting done on time and suggested some major changes will have to be made before Republicans get on board.
“We’re not going to going to just negotiate an $81 billion budget for (Democrats’ promise that) ‘Here, hey, here’s a few hundred million dollars for your district,'” he said. “This is going to have to be a serious negotiation that fixes a lot of these things we’re seeing and the conditions that are wrong and significantly changes the way the spending is put forward.”
Lawmakers return to Lansing next week. The budget, in the neighborhood of $80 billion, will be the largest ever for the state and is likely spend the majority of a record surplus of $9 billion.
The policy conference many legislators have been this week at winds down Friday. Its focus is always on economic development. One initiative announced this week was The “Make it in Michigan” program focusing on redeveloping Brownfield and other underutilized areas to make spaces for new manufacturing facilities and revitalizing neighborhoods to create more livable areas.
“We’ve lifted the cap on some of those dollars that allowed for Brownfield redevelopment and we’re allowing them to be used for residential properties, as well,” Brinks explained. “As you know, (housing is) a huge issue in West Michigan and Grand Rapids in particular. To increase the amount of units we have available, whether they’re homes or apartments, and get those available to our constituents is a top priority. This tool will help do that immediately.”
She said the program will help “make the math work” on some projects in Grand Rapids.